8/14/2013 10:53 P.M. ET
Astros plan to focus on upgrading bullpen
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Not that it's any kind of startling revelation, but Astros manager Bo Porter said on Wednesday that upgrading the bullpen will be one of the team's top tasks this offseason. The Astros began play Wednesday with an American League-worst 5.37 ERA from their relievers and league-high 21 blown saves.
"I think it's an area we'll set out as an organization and try to rectify," he said. "It's obviously cost us several ballgames this year along the way, and it's an area that internally we have some guys that are able to help us, and we have some guys available on the market we'll consider as well."
The Astros will likely spend some money in free agency on bringing some veteran help to a bullpen that currently has five rookies. Houston traded closer Jose Veras to the Tigers two weeks ago, and the team has struggled to close out games since.
Since July 28, the Astros' bullpen has posted a 7.04 ERA with seven homers allowed in 38 1/3 innings. In that same span, the starting rotation has pitched well with a 3.48 ERA and five homers allowed in 95 2/3 innings. Houston is just 3-12 in that span.
"It's an area of our ballclub we look to improve, especially when you look at our young starting pitchers and see how well they've pitched," Porter said. "If you shore it up, you put yourself at a greater chance of winning a lot of ballgames. We've played well enough to win some ballgames, but we're not able to close it out."
Porter in favor of expanded use of replay
OAKLAND -- Astros manager Bo Porter, whose team benefited from a favorable review late in Tuesday's game, said he's in favor of more replay because getting the call correct is ultimately the most important thing.
The committee that has been working on making recommendations for expanded replay briefed Major League Baseball's executive council late Wednesday afternoon and will report to the joint session Thursday morning during the quarterly Owners Meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y.
There is broad support to increase replay beyond the current boundary calls involving home runs, including trap plays and fair-foul debates. There remain questions about the added costs of more replay and how it will be determined replays should be used.
"As it relates to replay, I've always had the same stance: I think at this level of the game, you always want to get it right, especially home runs," Porter said. "The biggest question when you start to talk about replay is when the ball is still in play, it's where to place the runners [i.e., during a home run that's overturned and ruled a double]. I will let the higher beings get that straightened out, and when they present it to me I will adapt accordingly and go with it."
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a one-run game on Tuesday, Oakland's Chris Young nearly won the game with a fly ball down the left-field line that curled just to the left of the foul pole. The play was reviewed and correctly upheld as a foul ball, and Young struck out to end the game on the next pitch.
"When you look at the replay -- they say it's a game of inches -- and it's definitely a game of inches," he said.
Astros bring back Gonzalez to add infield depth
OAKLAND -- With starting second baseman Jose Altuve still nursing a sore left quad, the Astros called up infielder Marwin Gonzalez from Triple-A Oklahoma City following Tuesday's game, and he joined the team on Wednesday.
Gonzalez began the year with the Astros and hit .230 with four homers and 14 RBIs before being optioned to Oklahoma City, where he hit .262 with 10 doubles and 15 RBIs in 44 games. He's a strong defensive player who can play shortstop, second base and third base.
"The thought process behind bringing him back at this juncture had more to do with Altuve's situation and being able to monitor his quad," Astros manager Bo Porter said.
Porter said he would like to give Altuve a day off soon alongside a day where he puts him at designated hitter. Gonzalez would then be slotted into the lineup, likely at shortstop, while Jake Elmore plays second base.
Porter joked he's quit asking Altuve if he's able to play.
"Same answer every time," he said. "'I'm 100 percent and ready to go.' Mentally, in his mind, he still thinks he's 100 percent and he's taken some chances that at 100 percent he would have made, but the fact that he doesn't have that last burst in his legs has kind of cost us a couple of times."
Gonzalez said he worked on being a more patient hitter while he was the Minor Leagues the last two months.
Right-hander Jorge De Leon was sent to Oklahoma City to make room for Gonzalez on the 25-man roster.
Porter is ready for Texans football
OAKLAND -- When it comes to talking football, Astros manager Bo Porter certainly isn't a novice.
Porter was a defensive back at the University of Iowa and played in the Rose Bowl, and he's a huge Houston Texans fan. Porter has lived in Houston for more than a decade and is friends with Texans general manager Rick Smith.
Porter believes the Texans could have a big season.
"The Texans have a chance to do something special this year," he said. "It's a team that's been put together to win for the long haul. I'm a huge fan."
Porter and his wife had dinner with Smith and his wife prior to the NFL Draft in April, and Porter wasn't shy about giving his buddy some advice about what position the team focus on.
"And you know what? What was their first-round pick?" Porter said, referring to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson. "Hey, just saying. They are poised and ready to do something special."